By Mark O'Brien
ALBANY -- At Arbor Hill Elementary School in Albany on Tuesday morning, more Dads were dropping off kids than Moms were.
Sure, it was "Dads: Take your child to school day," but organizers say this is how kids should come to school every day. Fathers appeared to be taking notice.
"I felt that by bringing him to school, we had a better bond," George Fessel said, who took his 12-year-old son George Jr. to school riding bicycles. That is how the two have been going to school almost daily for the last couple of years.
"I like riding to school with him because we can talk," George Jr. said. "I can tell him things I can't talk about with my brothers and sisters."
The National Center for Education Statistics says when fathers take part in a child's education, the kids are more likely to get A's in school, be involved in extracurricular activities, and feel happy to go to school.
"It's a good support for the kids," Herbert Kittle said as he escorted his son and grandson into school. "They can learn better and say, 'My dad took me to school' or 'My grandfather took me to school.' That's a good thing for the children to know that."
The impact of a father's role in a child's life is not limited to school; it also applies at home. The website fatherhood.org says children in fatherless families are more likely to have behavioral problems, at greater risk of alcohol and drug use, and more likely to become teen parents.
Studies also show they're more likely to commit a crime. In light of recent murders in Albany, and other shootings in recent years, experts say now is the time to get fathers more involved.
"We're not saying mothers can't do this work," Gregory Owens of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services said. "what we're saying is when fathers are involved, when the family is healthy, then you get better outcomes. That's what we're promoting."
The program first came to the area last year at Arbor Hill Elementary School, and this year now includes Giffen Elementary School, North Albany Academy, and Sheridan Preparatory School. The program also includes schools in Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, and Syracuse. Locally, organizers hope to expand to more Capital Region schools next year.